In Things Fall Apart, give examples in the attitude and actions of Okonkwo that show what Igbos consider manly and what is womanly?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Things Fall Apart, we could look at the above question from a contrasting study of the characters Okonkwo and Unoka. Unoka is Okonkwo's lazy father. He is considered effeminate because he cannot stand the sight of blood. Also, he sits around all day drinking and playing his flute. His traits are feminine. He borrows money for he does not work. Not working is considered a feminine trait. Unoka was called womanish while Okonkwo was a child. Unoka could not think about war. He feared war. This trait made him womanish:

Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, loves to drink palm wine and play the flute. He is poor, and his wife and children barely have food to eat. Unoka never repays his loans, and the people laugh at him. When Unoka dies, he holds no title, and he is heavily in debt. Okonkwo is ashamed of him.

Okonkwo is quite manly. He wrestled Amalinze the Cat and won. His fame spread throughout the villages. Also, he is a great warrior. He has five skulls hanging from his belt. He is quite masculine in his sills as great warrior. Also, Okonkwo works hard. He is not lazy like his father was. Okonkwo has two barns filled with yams. Working hard as a farmer is a masculine trait:

Okonkwo is introduced as a great wrestler, a renowned warrior, and a hardworking member of the community. He has amassed two barns filled with yams, three wives, many children, and two titles.

Another masculine trait that Okonkwo is proud of is his abusive tendencies. He beats his three wives and children to keep them from becoming lazy and unprofitable. Okonkwo is quite masculine in his work ethic. He expects the same from his three wives and many children:

His rage, inflexibility, and fear of appearing weak like his lazy father, the musician Unoka, consistently overshadow his respect for his community.

When Ikemefuna is to be sacrificed, Okonkwo takes part in the killing, fearing he will be considered effeminate if he does not.

No doubt, Okonkwo has many masculine traits according to his Igbo division's requirements. Okonkwo fears being feminine as his father was. He strives to be as masculine as he can be:

Okonkwo strives to succeed in the traditional Igbo world, and he stands in stark contrast to Unoka, his poor, lazy father. Okonkwo is afraid of failing and appearing weak like his father. He disdains feminine activities such as playing the flute, and he gravitates to the masculine energy in Igbo society by amassing material wealth in yams.



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Things Fall Apart

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